On this page, I will describe for you how to gain strength by explaining in a very (very) simplified way the physiological process of getting stronger. Understanding the process will make it much easier for you understand how to gain strength. However, I will only be focusing on the process of gaining muscle strength.
I am actually quite fascinated by human physiology and I find it interesting to read about and I study it as a hobby. Still, there is so much about the human body I am completely clueless about including things relevant for gaining strength.
Luckily for both me and you it is definitely not needed to know a lot of about the body to get stronger. You could know nothing about what is going on inside the body and still get stronger if you just lift some heavy things. But having some basic knowledge will prevent you in making mistakes and wasting time and effort.
Gain Strength By Stressing Muscles and Nervous System
On a completely basic level what happens when you lift for example some heavy weights is your body is being highly stressed by the force you exert necessary to complete the lift. By highly stressed I mean this is a very demanding and taxing situation for the muscles and your nervous system because the muscles rarely have to contract with such an amount of force.
This is also obvious since you can only complete the lifts for a few repetitions of any given heavy exercise before you will fail. What many people do not consider or lack taking full account of is that it is not only the muscle that is being stressed but also the central nervous system.
The nervous system is responsible for transmitting the signals from your brain to the muscles allowing them to contract and exert force by your conscious (or unconscious) will.
If want to read more on the nervous you can read from this textbook.
Besides the muscles and the nervous system also bones, tendons, and joints are getting stressed of course.
Muscle Recovery and Gaining Strength
When you stress your muscles by lifting heavy weights you literally tear small wounds inside the muscle tissue (these are called muscle tears). This is a good thing and a part of the process to getting stronger. After the muscles have been stressed and muscle tears are present in the muscle tissue your body will start recovering.
When recovering the small muscle tears will be “healed” and the result is you become a little bit stronger and the muscle becomes a little bit bigger and/or harder. Put in another way what is happening is the muscles are adapting to the stress you are putting on them.
How long your recovery will take depends on many things. If you are doing heavy compound movements the muscles could be recovered anywhere between 24 – 72 hours. However, also the central nervous system needs recovery and that usually takes at least 72 hours before full recovery for that specific muscle group.
That means if you do a heavy shoulder exercise it would usually take at least 72 hours before your nervous system is fully recovered to do heavy shoulder exercises again. But it should not be a problem at all to do for example a heavy leg or back exercise much sooner than 72 hours or on the same day for that matter.
Taking the recovery of both muscles and nervous system into consideration, how you become stronger is then simply a process of exerting force by recruiting a lot of muscle and then repeat over and over again. The best and most time-efficient way to do that is to perform various heavy exercises. Depending on how ambitious you are the process could take a few years.